The Chamomile Experiment Begins!


I’ve been waiting for two things to start:

  1. A bag of real herbal Chamomile tea, flower heads and all
  2. Spring to hit a bit harder
  3. Money to buy seedling trays so I can grow other things

So I am declaring either today or tomorrow afternoon my official start to my experiment. I mentioned this in a previous post Can You Grow Chamomile From Teabags? I discovered it is possible apparently to do so, according to a video posted on YouTube but this is the internet and not all information is right. However the organic Chamomile will definitely yield results as it clearly has seeds in it. I think I have Roman and German Chamomile but I am not entirely sure so if I find out which one I have I will make sure to add that bit of info.

I will most likely just update this one post here as I go along which would make it an incredibly HUGE post that is image heavy. So if you are interested in this journey, it will be long and slow so bookmark this post and check back in a week to a few weeks.

Lavender: Uses Beyond Scent (+ Mild Rant)


photo of white pink and yellow ceramic mug and saucer

Photo by Mareefe on Pexels.com

So because I have a love of herbs and herbal flowers, specifically tea flowers, imagine my surprise seeing lavender used in Tea. But not just any lavender, there are specific types of lavenders out there. I’ve specifically seen English Lavender and the dwarf variety and French Lavender used to make tea which is then also used in biscuits and yoghurt. Biscuits such as Macaroons. Seriously go check it out. Lavender Macaroons. They look amazing!

My mind was blown the first time and I discovered it a few years ago. It’s not anything new by any means. But it did get me thinking.

With the increase of misinformation and misinformed flower identification and an increase in false “Health Properties” claims, how do you really know if it’s safe? One thing that troubles me is when people buy dried lavender aimed at use in sachets for moth repelant as an all natural scented bag for pest problems. There are pesticides or preservatives on them. And often there something coated on it when it says they aren’t. This is a problem when people buy cheap lavender refills rather than tea grade to save a few bucks.

If you plan to use ANY dried flower, make sure it’s cooking grade or comes from a tea store. It’s no secret that flower nurseries and big stores like Bunnings often mislabel plants and you don’t always have the right breed when you buy it. You’re best off doing loads of research and get solid information firsthand from reputable sources and then growing the correct species yourself. Lavender doesn’t take long and a simple well looked after large pot plant lavender can provide quite a bountiful harvest of flowers.

With these thoughts in mind it keeps reminding me of the time I got the wrong plant because of mislabelling. I had a moment of great frustration with buying Aloe vera. I waited for it to bloom because I was suspicious of it’s breed. Good thing I did because I bought it under the impression that it was safe to eat. I did an incredible amount of research and the one Bunnings was selling as edible it was in fact, topical only and mislabelled, encouraging ingestible uses.

Not an uncommon occurrence. Same happens with their flowers. They also don’t check or control cross pollination housing everything in the one area and occasionally end up selling hybrid plants without labelling it’s a hybrid. Unfortunately like some dog breeds, you only work out it’s been crossed with something else when it reaches maturity.

So I started buying my plants from a reputatble nursery in Queensland. A whole other state away from mine if you’re wondering. The shipping is VERY fast and they arrive safe and sound. I give the boxes to my worms and every plant I have bought from them never dies when I plant them. A HUGE deal because everything I buy from Bunnings no matter how hard I try, it dies or dies of shock easily. I’ve tried every suggestion but it’s hit or miss. Herb Cottage, the site I buy from, I never have this issue. The plants are that healthy and strong.

I bought most of my plants for them recently and unlike other sights, Herb Cottage includes cullinary use information as well as historical uses if they have it and if it’s accurate. I have yet to see them sell English Lavender but I did find a packet of seeds to grow from. Just been waiting for the right time to sow them. I want to try homemade lavender tea one day but not without more research. There are not just a lot of species, but I’m kind of horrified that big chain stores are selling salvia plants as Lavender. I must admit at first glance the mistake would be easy to make especially to a novice gardener but mislabelling can be so dangerous. Especially with an increased interest in natural homemade food and herbal teas with a “Do it yourself” attitude. It reminds me of that poor girl who thought she had an aloe vera leaf but it was agave and she was rushed to hospital.

All rambling aside, Lavender is one of my top favourtie flowers for uses other than scent. One such thing I like is brewing a tea like consistency as a hair rinse just to simply scent my hair. Not for any make shift hair treatment, just for the colour and the smell. It’s lovely. I also love them in bath bombs and soaps or floating loose in the bath. I love the light purple tinting. It’s just nice and fun.

But I want to know so much more about lavender tea. One such recipe that has caught my eye is Lavender Lemonade. It looks divine!

As I research it more and get more into some home photography I might revisit this post with a follow up one day.

 

 

Gardening Update


I plan to clean up this blog soon but before I do I thought I would share a gardening update. My garden is currently in a shocking state but for Christmas last year I recieved multiple fruit trees and it’s inspired me to get back into creating a fresh and positive yard.

I recieved 2 mandarin trees a mango tree, kaffir lime tree and 2 apple trees. They’re all beautiful especially the red fleshed apple tree. That one I am the most interested in seeing fruit.

Fortunately most of them are suitable to stay in pots until I am ready to plant them in the ground. Which I may or may not do since the soil in my yard is not the best and there is an awful lot of clay.

I am very excited about it. As you can see, some parts of the yard are a bit out of control but the weather has been unbearably hot lately. I keep talking my husband out of mowing because it’s not worth the heatstroke. Next cool afternoon though we will clean it up and figure out where to put these beautiful trees.

2018-01-30 18.09.33.jpg

Let’s Talk About Aloe Vera


To start off I have to start this out with something depressing. Over the last few months my Aunty has been getting increasingly sick. First kidney stones and now she’s tested positive for bowel cancer.

Her sister (My mother) rang up and asked me first for a home remedy for kidney stones until she can get some surgery to remove it because apparently it’s quite large. She needed it to shrink. This lead me to looking up two things:

  1. Me researching Aloe Vera more thoroughly, because my prior knowledge was limited. But I knew it had an awful lot of vitamins.
  2. Me researching Apple Cider Vinegar again. Again previous knowledge, I knew it could help break the stone up, which apparently it did indeed do just that.

Within a week of store bought aloe vera inner gel juice and the cider vinegar (taken separately) her stones were breaking up and passing yet she’d been dealing with it for at least 2yrs.

In the mean time I’ve been looking up other uses for Aloe Vera and I’ve discovered so much it’s just incredible. I’m simply amazed with it’s various uses.

One thing I want to mention straight off the bat about the “negative research results”. Those results were from experiments done with a concentrated extract, not the inner gel. This means all of it, the whole leaf. The sap wasn’t removed and most people that use it, wash it off and so you should, it is after all a well known irritant. I just wanted to mention this because I know someone might comment with concerns and don’t worry I looked thoroughly. I’m only talking about inner leaf uses in this post.

My mum for her own health, after all the stuff I looked up and researched about Aloe Vera, among many other things, implanted the idea in my had that I should follow this up and see about doing herbal medicine. And I just might because I enjoy it and remember it.

Also she now wants to try some fresh aloe vera for herself. But there is only one problem. The large aloe we have, I have yet to accurately identify it and as far as online help goes, everywhere and every professionals advise one key identifier and that is the check it’s flowers. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find a local professional to look at it in person but I’m confident that if I can get it to flower, I’ll know exactly what it is.

So, I thought back. It’s never flowered. But it’s also never been this healthy in over 10yrs since we have had it. The current large aloe vera I have appears to me to be an Aloe Vera Barbandensis but there’s a slight chance it’s something else. So far it’s grown at an incredible speed. I thought I couldn’t rescue this one and previous reviews and advice didn’t help much. So this time I winged it and I’m glad I did.

First of all I repotted it to a better healthier pot and regular well draining potting mix. It went well. Very surprising. Then I repotted it again in a good quality Cactus mix from Bunnings and in a much larger and wider pot.

I am surprised at the depth of this one’s roots. Then I pulled off each and every pup that surfaced. It’s leaves were brownish, reddish, orange from sunburn. There was shrivelling dead leaves. I cut off all dead leaves and leaves with holes but I did this slowly. Not in one hit. I cut off one and waited for a new one to show then cut off another so on and so forth. In about two months for the FIRST time I had straight aloe vera leaves. Fresh new ones grew in and they were beautiful and healthy.

It was this very reason that I never thought it was an aloe vera. I had never, not once ever seen it grow straight leaves. They always curled. Even if the odd green one came, it curled.

Previously it was my Nan’s, then my mothers and now it’s mine. It has always been orange or curly. I’ve learned on my own that it was too dry. Too dry in summer, too wet in winter and not in a wide or deep enough pot. All the wrong things you can do to an aloe vera apparently.

By the time I got to it after the 5months of being homeless until they removed the tree from our house and we waited for it to be fixed, there was 5 of them smooshed together in the one pot by the time I got to it. And I didn’t touch it for the first few months of being home. It was a sad sight indeed. There was roughly one whole aloe vera for each month we were gone.

I had, before the storm hit, recently moved it under the Mulberry tree for shade and started caring for it and getting it green. When I came home I found it not only moved but the painters had WASHED their brushes over my aloe vera. I was raging! I mean honestly, how dare they!!

Anyway, I took the healthiest and started from there. This is where a mixture of fun and not so fun came into play.

At first after repotting it twice, the second time in the healthier potting mix, it started dying. I added a bit of compost and soy milk refuse and home made soy milk with a bit of water and it shot up several inches in a week. That’s how I discovered that aloe vera, despite popular belief, loves a bit of food.

But I didn’t want to over do it. Then for a while it was looking unhappy again so I moved it to just outside my front door. I like it there, it’s quite attractive. So now it gets a mix of full sun and passing shade.

I’ve been tending to it for a few months now. Around January this year so close to 5months of care. It’s no longer got holes. No longer has brown anything. It’s healthy all the way to the tips and it’s sprouting healthy pups.

Sometimes if I feel it needs it I feed it with a mix of Seasol and Power Feed diluted below the minimum recommended ration. I have it so the water just looks like filthy water, not dark like it can look and I serve it up in a regular empty water bottle. Roughly 600ml and pour it around the roots but not on the leaves. I read both of these feeders can burn leaves so yeah. I like to keep my water bottles for my yard since watering cans (can never find a tin one) always go brittle from sun damage. I am always leaving them outside. I can’t trust myself.

Right now, I am doing whatever it takes to get this thing to flower. My Aunty told me they flower in the summer which was a bit disappointing for me because well, it’s the end of Autumn right now. I’m hoping it might sprout a flower in spring.

This was the most difficult thing to find an answer too as well since all the Answers were for Americans whom asked this question. You would think with all the gardening groups and forums, at least one person in Australia grows them and can tell you. So far from what I can tell, a happy Aloe Vera will flower, a sad one won’t and it will flower when it wants to, not when you want it to.

So basically now all I have to do is keep an eye on it and feed it when it’s not looking as dark and green and lush. I think since reviving it, at first I feed it about 4 times in the first two months. I haven’t feed it in 3 months and it’s doing great. I don’t plan to feed it until it shows signs of need it.

Each feeding I gave it, I made it weaker and weaker. Almost like a nutritive weaning for a plant. The thing about aloe vera is it stores up so much of it’s own nutrients almost like it’s own personal reserves, which is what makes it so easy to over feed it just as it’s easy to over water it. Whatever you plan to feed your aloe vera, make sure it’s fairly week and doesn’t cause or increase moisture. For example, don’t put lots of tea leaves. They tend to keep your pot moist increasing chances of root rot.

I’ve learned a lot over the last 5months. I bought another Aloe from Bunning but it wasn’t labelled properly and turned out to be a hybrid that we can’t identify and though it says medicinal, it doesn’t mention if it’s topical only. I think it’s a hybrid of a Haworthia but I’m not totally sure because like I said, not labelled well. Being a hybrid, I think that’s an important peice of info to put on the tag.

Mine died though. I had it inside and the damned cat knocked it down 4 times. By the fourth time it died of plant shock. But now my big aloe is sprouting pups, I’ve found myself replanting those instead. Because even if it’s not the Aloe Vera Barbadensis that I want, it’s still a very attractive plant and I’ve enjoyed taking care of it. I like too that it’s safe to forget about it and it won’t be dead. I mean 10+ yrs of neglect has proven that.

Looking back I feel bad for not caring for it but I was a teenager and not interested. That and for some reason I only enjoyed growing tomatoes and chilli bushes. The latter being the strangest since I use to hate chillies and anything spicy. Loved growing the plant though. For me it was a great beginner plant. Mine grew as tall as me, 5ft. My cat, a ginger tabby, loved eating them fresh off the bush. He was so weird. If we brought them inside mum loved it when I left her chillies near the kettle. The damned cat would play with and then eat them by the time I turned my back.

But enough about that. When it comes to handling aloe vera, I’m serious about the lack of plant care. I not once with the exception of like a few rare times of watering it, when it was mums, none of us used to take care of it. We had no use for it and it was frequently forgotten about and my father didn’t know how to care for it so we did nothing with it.

We received it in around 2004 or 2005. And though it’s not the original, but a pup that grew and was replaced by another pup when the mature one died, it’s still alive. And I think that’s incredible.

I am fairly certain of what type it is now that it’s healthy. It’s white spots had me confused. I later found out that mature aloe has no spots but fresh or young aloe vera has white spots.

It’s the first time I ever saw it’s spots as well. But now as it matures the spots are fading which is making me relax a little. It’s also the thickest and the widest it’s ever been with healthy thorns and healthy tips. Previously the tips would be dead by a good inch or two.

Standing in the shallow pot, the Aloe now reaches my hips (which isn’t impressive considering I’m only 5ft tall). It’s never been so tall. This is also important to me to find out because it’s max height also tells me which spices of Aloe it might be.

Another thing I noticed that use to make me question if it was aloe vera, when it was healthy-ish and still a bit curly it’s leaves were always under 30cm no matter what was done to it. Opening it up it smelled strongly of onions. I looked this up and not one answer was given as to why or if it was not an aloe. Then I looked it up again this year. More and more people are saying theirs smells like onion as well. This information made me relax because these people had a proper aloe vera with their tag and experienced growers confirmed the type of aloe but everyone was baffled about it’s smell. Someone suggested it was root rot. So I kept that in mind.

Since repotting it in healthier soil and making it healthy it no longer smells strongly of onions and basically smelling disgusting. It does still have a similar smell but I’ve come to find it’s the natural smell of the green skin. Now that my aloe is healthy, it’s not so oniony but similar to onions if that makes sense. Before you cut it off and you’re like “Whooooa yuck”, you could smell it almost instantly. It was pungent and sickening and definitely not what you would want to put on your skin. Now if I cut a piece off, you have to hold it to your nose to smell it’s somewhat oniony smell. It’s very mild.

My only conclusion is, change the soil, your aloe is probably unhappy. And I doubt it’s the sap. I have actually gotten more sap, even from same sized leaves as from when it was small and it still smells better than my old sad aloe. And a healthy aloe is a dark to medium green. I’ve come to find if it’s going pale and feels mushy it’s over watered and under fed. A healthy aloe should also be firm and thick with no marks.

I’ve also come to find that “bitter” aloe is smelly. In some way or another it’s smelly in a “fresh greens” kind of way, but it shouldn’t be pungent. If it’s pungent, it’s not very healthy. And to clarify that I mean your plant is unhealthy, I don’t mean it’s going off or going bad, it just needs some treatment if it’s smelling funky after you cut it up.

I also found out that although it’s self healing, you can still put your plant in shock. Though difficult to do with aloe vera, it’s still very possible. So, with that in mind don’t thrash your aloe if you repot it. Whilst researching and watching a few (hundred) videos on Youtube, I came across some very rough gardeners. So… handle with care. It is a living thing after all.

All that rambling aside, I’ve had an interesting year with aloe vera and learning all about it. I’m also going to continue growing it. From past experiences, I’ve noticed aloe vera tends to choke itself with it’s pups so if anyone that knows me, wants some free aloe vera, mine seems to be making 1-4 a week right now 😉 But seriously, if you see pups, take them and move them because it gets big fast and eventually chokes the mother plant.

Lately just because of the flowers and how tall it gets I’ve been considering getting Aloe Vera Ferox. I really like those red flowers and some of the photo’s I’ve seen of it looking like a small tree makes me think it might be a good plant to grow along side one of my fences for a bit of extra privacy and to attract some more birds.

But there’s a few things about it that puts me off. I read somewhere about someone having red sap or dark sap coming out of theirs and causing irritation and I do so very much like to get into my garden without gloves on (very bad of me I know). And if I’m going to dive in and get grazes I really don’t want any irritation to go with it. Buuuut knowing me I’ll likely get a baby one and try and grow it. But again, my front yard might not be best unless it’s in a pot considering how soggy our soil can get. Only one way to find out though right?

That’s the funniest thing with aloe vera, it’s inner clear gel heals and treats itching and scrapes yet it’s thorns and yellow saps grazes and causes itching and in some people inflammation on the skin which I later found out to be a latex allergy. Me personally, no irritation to the aloe I have, or it’s natural latex. But I frequently graze myself on it’s thorns. I’m clumsy that way. Just with what I’ve heard about it being more potent, it just worries me a little. I don’t like handling things that can cause itching or effect sensitive skin.

After all I wrote and rambled about, I think it’s time to end this post or it will go on even longer. Because honestly I could keep talking about it and my new found experiences. What I would like to end this with is, I have found a website of an Australian herbal nursery and they happen to supply medicinal aloe vera. Tomorrow I plan to buy two pots of it. One for myself and one for my Aunty. Wish me luck guys and when I get it, I’ll make a post and with photo’s this time. I might update this with some photo’s but no promises.